Watts scores twice in 300th career WHL game

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Zack Hayes celebrates with his teammates after scoring a key goal against the Lethbridge Hurricanes in January.

Raiders wrap up homestand by beating Hurricanes

Friday’s Western Hockey League contest at the Art Hauser Centre is one that Brayden Watts won’t soon forget.

Not only did the Prince Albert Raiders overage forward suit up for his 300th regular season game, but he also scored a pair of goals to help his team pick up a 4-1 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

“It’s obviously a good accomplishment, but I’m just glad that we were able to come out of here with the win,” Watts said.

“I love it here in Prince Albert. As I was telling (Raiders play by play announcer) Trevor (Redden) earlier, I started my WHL career in Saskatchewan (with the Moose Jaw Warriors) and I’m happy to finish it here.”

The 20-year-old from Bakersfield, California was a third round pick by the Warriors in 2014 and was part of the organization until January 2017, when he was traded to the Vancouver Giants.

After spending two-and-a-half campaigns with the Giants before he was dealt to the Raiders at the start of this season, Watts is currently enjoying a career year with the defending league champions as he’s recorded 45 points in 46 games.

“He’s been really good for us and he’s well-liked in the room,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “He had a tough end to the season last year in the final (when the Giants lost to the Raiders) and the guys want him to be on the right side of things this year.

“He took a chance on our league coming from Bakersfield and he’s done well in it.”

It was also a milestone night for Raiders captain Zack Hayes as the 20-year-old blueliner scored his first power play goal in his 257th regular season contest.

That marker came with 2:22 to go in the third period as he one-timed a feed from Aliaksei Protas to give his team a 3-1 lead.

“We’ve been working on one-timers at practice and I guess it paid off,” Hayes said. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure that I would be out there, but with how close the game was, Habby put a couple of defencemen on the point like he’s done in the past.”

“He looked like Brett Hull when he down on one knee and snapped it in,” Habscheid joked. “I’m surprised he didn’t ride the stick down to centre ice after the goal. That was stellar. It almost looked like he knew what he was doing.”

Kaiden Guhle had a pair of assists for the 26-14-5-4 Raiders, who have won their last two games and are now two points ahead of the Winnipeg Ice in the race for first place in the East Division.

Ilya Usau also scored for the hosts, who received an 18-save outing from Max Paddock.

The 29-12-2-5 Hurricanes, who saw a three-game win streak end on Friday, got a goal from Trevor Thurston and a 20-save showing from Carl Tetachuk.

Thurston’s marker, which came early in the second period on a long-range shot that bounced off Paddock’s glove and into the net, was the only point of the night for the visitors.

Although they were without the services of Pittsburgh Penguins defensive prospect Calen Addison, the Hurricanes main weapons of Brett Davis, Oliver Okuliar, Dylan Cozens, Alex Cotton and Logan Barlage had numerous chances to score but were unable to solve the Raiders.

“In the old days, you used to shadow guys, but now we play a good team defence,” Habscheid said. “We liked our matchups tonight and we made them earn their opportunities on offence.”

After picking up seven out of a possible eight points during a four-game homestand, the Raiders will now start a four-game road swing on Saturday evening against the Swift Current Broncos.

“I think we’ve been competing hard every night here lately,” Hayes said. “There’s a couple of moments where we aren’t playing our best, but then we reset things and play a hard 60 minutes.”

Post-Game Notes

Prince Albert Mintos defender Chase Pauls, who had a goal in three games for the Hurricanes earlier this month, was called up to replace Calen Addison on the blueline.

Dylan Cozens and Logan Barlage both saw their seven and six game point streaks come to an end on Friday, with Barlage’s run of form being the longest in his WHL career.

In addition to Addison, the Hurricanes did not dress Joe Arntsen, Dino Kambeitz and Noah Boyko.

Daniil Stepanov was the lone scratch for the Raiders.

Friday’s Scores

  • Brandon 4 Calgary 0 (Luke Burzan – Two Goals and One Assist – Jiri Patera – 37 Saves – Fifth Shutout This Season and Sixth Career)
  • Everett 4 Portland 3 (Bryce Kindopp – Two Goals)
  • Spokane 7 Kelowna 3 (Adam Beckman – One Goal and Three Assists)
  • Saskatoon 3 Moose Jaw 0 (Riley McKay – Two Goals – Nolan Maier – 20 Saves – First Shutout This Season and Seventh Career)
  • Prince George 5 Tri-City 1 (Vladislav Mikhalchuk – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Red Deer 6 Winnipeg 5 (Jace Isley – Two Goals and One Assist – Peyton Krebs – Four Assists)
  • Regina 5 Victoria 4 (Cole Dubinsky – Shootout Winner – Carson Denomie – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Medicine Hat 4 Swift Current 1 (Jonathan Brinkman – Two Assists)
  • Vancouver 5 Kamloops 4 (Eric Florchuk Overtime Winner – One Goal and Two Assists)

Pre-Game Notes

The Raiders have won both of their meetings with the Broncos so far this season and have also prevailed in their last eight contests with their provincial rivals.

Following a 4-1 loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday, the 10-33-1-3 Broncos find themselves on a two-game winless streak and at the bottom of the league table, though they are only two points behind the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Former Raiders forward D-Jay Jerome has nine points in 10 games for the Broncos since he joined the team in early January after being waived by the Lethbridge Hurricanes, while one-time first round pick Cohner Saleski has two points in 24 contests after he was acquired from the Red Deer Rebels.

Cole Nagy, who was acquired from the Raiders for Matthew Culling in December, has four points in 16 games for Swift Current.

Prince Albert product Alex Moar has nine points in 38 games in his second season on the Broncos blueline.

Parker Hendren, Jordan Borysiuk and Garrett Sambrook are all currently sidelined with injuries.

Saturday’s Schedule

  • Red Deer vs. Calgary – 2:30 p.m. (will air nationally on Sportsnet)
  • Victoria vs. Moose Jaw – 7 p.m.
  • Lethbridge vs. Saskatoon – 7 p.m.
  • Prince Albert vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
  • Seattle vs. Portland – 8 p.m.
  • Winnipeg vs. Edmonton – 8 p.m.
  • Brandon vs. Medicine Hat – 8:30 p.m.
  • Vancouver vs. Kamloops – 9 p.m.
  • Tri-City vs. Prince George – 9 p.m.
  • Kelowna vs. Spokane – 9 p.m.